Hornets junior Kelow discus state champion
Responds defiantly to shot put near-miss; only CHS medalist
JEFFERSON CITY — Commendably shrugging off the extreme disappointment of missing out on a state medal in the shot put by a sliver Saturday, Chillicothe High School junior thrower Damarcus Kelow used his third of four attempts to not only erase all doubt about his being on the discus throw medals stand at the Class 3 track-and-field state championships, but about what step he would be on.
The top one.
Owning a regular-season best of just in excess of 170’ and several others around or over 160’, Kelow delivered the discus 162’8” (49.59 meters) on his third try, elevating himself from second place, just over a foot behind, to the lead by over seven feet.
When no competitors improved on their own previous bests the rest of the way, the Hornet had gained what would prove to be CHS’ only 2021 state-meet medal, in addition to its first state-meet individual title since both Walker Graves (in the shot put) and Brett Shaffer (in the 110-meters high hurdles) each prevailed as seniors in 2018.
“Demarcus had a great day,” evaluated Ken Stull, long-time CHS assistant coach for throwers. “He threw well and we are well-pleased.”
“He joins a long list of great throwers that we have had, especially under coach Stull,” saluted Bill Shaffer, Hornets head coach for more than 20 years.
Despite two of Chillicothe’s other five state participants producing personal-best performances, none was able to reach the medals stand as a top-8 finisher in their respective events.
“All of the kids did a really great job and represented Chillicothe at a very high level,” proclaimed Karen Jackson, Lady Hornets head coach, who works with jumpers of either gender in the collaborative CHS coaching arrangement.
Missing out on a medal in the shot put by fouling twice and having a poorer second-best attempt than two others whose bests also were measured at the same distance as his 47’2-1/4” – incredibly, Kelow could have finished fifth with just a half-inch more on his third-round toss, the Chillicothean didn’t make things any easier on himself when he also fouled on his initial attempt in the discus.
In the second round for the second group of competitors, however, he put himself right in the thick of the chase for the title with a fling of 154’2” (47m), only 14 inches behind leader Alex Richardson of Buffalo. Richardson had immediately preceded the Hornet with a throw of 155’4”, momentarily boosting the lead he had held after one round by seven feet.
When their turns came back around a third time, Richardson figuratively flinched and Kelow pounced.
Richardson fouled on his next-to-last try, then could only watch when the Chillicothe 11th grader hit a big one.
Off the disc sailed to almost the 50-meters marking on the course. When the precise measurement came in about 30 seconds later, Kelow had zoomed past Richardson by more than seven feet with each having one more opportunity.
With no one else having launched anything more than 150’, it became a do-or-take-second scenario for Richardson as he stepped into the ring for one last try. While clean, it was quickly obvious it would be no threat to Kelow’s lead, falling to earth at less than 135’.
That left Kelow and Larry Minner of Chesterfield’s Westminster Christian Academy, who was far down the standings, to set the final order of finish.
With Minner having taken second in the shot put earlier and having won his sectional meet with a throw of over 150’, Kelow could not count on that opponent not doing something spectacular on his final throw. However, in going all out to try to extend his lead even more, the CHS thrower fouled a second time, leaving it up to Minner.
The St. Louis-area school’s junior, with merely one counting throw among his three previous attempts, Minner also had to try to maximize his last throw. That led to him fouling, too, leaving the crown to Kelow by a final margin of 7’4” over Richardson.
“I'm extremely impressed with Damarcus,” coach Shaffer declared. “He had been the best discus thrower in Class 3 all season and that can put a lot of pressure on someone when they get to the state meet.
“For him to come up with the big throw on the big stage says a lot about him. ”
Of Chillicothe’s other five state participants, each having stamped their 2021 seasons as exemplary just by earning the right to compete there for the first time (Kelow went to state as a freshman), not even two who produced personal bests managed a placement higher than 10th Saturday.
Finishing 11th in the 1,600-meters run in 5:38.39 in her state meet debut was Jolie Bonderer. The freshman ran the 4-laps race a couple of seconds faster than she’d ever run it before, yet was more than 10 seconds slower than the final (eighth-place) medalist.
“Jolie ran an amazing race,” lauded Jackson.
Said coach Shaffer, “She went out strong as she needed to in such a strong field of runners. She beat her ‘PR’ and I know that she will do all she can to improve for next year.”
Similarly, junior Braxten Johnson finished 12th in the 110-meters high hurdles, even though his 16.42 seconds time was a quarter-second faster than his previous “PR” (personal record).
“Braxten Johnson had a great race,” coach Shaffer, who works most directly with the hurdlers and sprinters, praised. “Our goal was for him to ‘PR’ and he did just that.
“What stood out for me in watching that race is that he had a (potentially-disconcerting) head wind and it was his first time at state in his first year as a hurdler. He has been a bright spot for us all season.”
Aside from Kelow’s ninth place in the shot put, the highest spot for a CHS contestant was junior Tristan Forck placing 10th in the high jump at 6’3/4”. He would have needed to get over the next height – 6’1-1/2” – to get in the top eight. While it was a height he’d surpassed a few times during the year, he could not this day.
Rounding out the Chillicothe corps’ performance at Jefferson City High School’s Adkins Stadium Saturday, in the boys’ pole vault, neither Hornet involved got in the top 10.
Sophomore district and sectional champion Gavin Funk finished in a tie for 11th, clearing the opening height of 11’5” (3.48m), then bowing out with three misses at 11’10-3/4”.
“I hope that Gavin and Tristan can build on this year's experience and return to the state meet next year,” reflected the Hornets’ head coach. “They both have a lot of potential for improvement and they can get themselves on the medal stand if they put in the work during the offseason.”
Senior teammate Rudy Yutzy was not able to get over 11’5” in three tries, so he shared 15th place.
Related coach Shaffer, “Rudy did a lot of work in the preseason to get ready for pole vault this year. He just missed qualifying for state as a sophomore and could not compete last year, due to COVID.
“He really wanted to make it to Jefferson City and it speaks volumes about him that he was able to do just that.”
For either CHS vaulter to medal, they’d have needed to far exceed their “PRs.” The eighth-place height was 12’10-1/4”. Neither Hornet has ever been over 12’.
Kelow’s crown means CHS has had at least one state-meet medalist each of the past 10 years (no meet was held in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic). In half of those 10 years, at least one medalist was a state champion, including throwers Alec Whiteside and Walker Graves.